Isaac Sewell’s initial reaction after throwing his first career no-hitter earlier this season was to find his mom and wrap his arms around her.
“She’s been such a great help with my perspective and attitude toward the game these past few years,” Sewell said. “She’s been through a lot in her life. I love playing this game and seeing a smile on her face.”
Sewell, a left-handed junior pitcher at The First Academy, struck out 12 batters while holding host Harmony (15-4-1) without a hit during a 2-0 win on Feb. 26. The memorable experience came unexpectedly.
“[Before the game] I was stretching and got to see one of my old friends, so I was just in a great mood the entire time and kind of singing and dancing on the mound,” Sewell said.
That outing was a continuation of an impressive start for Sewell since joining the varsity squad last spring as a sophomore. He had allowed just three hits, seven walks and no earned runs while striking out 22 batters in 13 innings before the season was cut short due to COVID-19.
The Royals (18-1) are again benefitting from solid pitching in 2021, this time by both Sewell and Florida State commit Ben Barrett, who doubles as one of the top hitters on the team. Barrett was batting .375 (18-for-48) with 13 RBIs and 11 runs scored through 14 games.
Catcher Riley Parker and shortstop Greg Pettay, both UCF commits as juniors, have played vital roles in the field for TFA. Sophomore centerfielder Jaden Bastian has emerged as a threat at the plate while connecting on three home runs this season.
Sewell committed to Virginia Tech earlier this month.
“You get a little worried when they commit early, but they haven’t seemed to be content with that,” said TFA coach Scott Grove. “They continue working hard and trying to get better every day. As a coach you can’t ask for much more out of your kids.”
The continued commitment by players is evident in the way they’ve bounced back from their lone loss.
Sewell’s first hiccup as a starter came last month at Bishop Moore when, while striking out seven batters and building a 2-0 lead, he gave up two runs in the seventh inning. The teams went back and forth until the Hornets (7-9) clinched a 5-4 walk-off win by plating two runners in the bottom of the ninth.
“It was getting to the point toward the last few innings where I was getting tired and starting to feel the fatigue,” Sewell said. “I was trying to push through it, but they put the bat on the ball and put it in play. We took it as an opportunity to look at what we’d done and really try to improve on it.”
TFA carries a nine-game win streak into the final two weeks of the regular season, which features all five of its remaining games at home. District tournaments begin April 26.
The Royals were ranked No. 9 last week in FHSAA Class 3A power ratings with a 14.1 score despite being one of two teams throughout the classification with only one loss. TFA, which owns the weakest strength-of-schedule among 3A teams ranked in the Top 20, trails potential Region 2 postseason opponents Lakeland Christian (18.6), Clearwater Calvary Christian (16.6) and Tampa Berkeley Prep (16.2) in the rankings.
First Academy’s strength of schedule will likely get a boost down the stretch beginning Tuesday at 7 p.m. against Groveland South Lake (10-10). Along with rematches vs. Harmony (April 16) and Bishop Moore (April 20), the Royals round of their slate against Trinity Prep (9-7) on Thursday and Lake Minneola (12-6) on April 22.
“It’s going to be challenging down the stretch. It’s good for us,” said Grove. “We wanted to schedule some of these tougher teams toward the end to get us ready to go for district play and regional play.”